Mudbricks, pt. 1


I took this picture in 2006 as I was walking through some back streets in Konya.  I liked the side-by-side comparison of the use of mudbrick along with concrete blocks, or “bims”.

I spent most of yesterday researching mudbrick construction and durability as part of an education program that I’m helping out with at the Presidio.  The Presidio of San Francisco was originally made out of mudbrick, and had rammed earth defensive walls.  While this worked well for the Spanish colonialists in what is now Mexico and the Southwest, it was pathetically ineffectual in the Bay Area.  The Presidio is perched up on the very northern coast of the San Francisco peninsula, where it’s windy and foggy most of the time.  The winters were wet enough so that the buildings melted away, and there are contemporary accounts calling the Presidio “a series of mud huts” and that it “resembled a pound for cattle”.  The tulle (reed) roofs were not covered by tiles at that time either, so they had to repair them each time it rained.

Not even a dozen years after it was built, the Presidio was in serious disrepair and the governor of California at the time considered abandoning it because it was costing too much to maintain.  This would be a pretty constant theme throughout the Presidio’s history.  There is still a bit of that adobe construction left in the walls of the officer’s club that they show off during tours, so we’re going to have the kids who visit make mudbricks.  There’s some backdirt left from the excavations over the summer, so we’ll try to mix that with sand and straw and do a little experimentation before the program gets off the ground.

Stay tuned.  (any suggestions would be welcome!)

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

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